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|March 28, 2000|
A Homeless Writer
Pico Iyer was destined to become a travel writer from the age of three. His most vivid memory of his childhood in England is of walking amongst people who did not look like him and had values and assumptions that were different from his.
As he grew older he realized that he felt comfortable being an outsider.
"I realized that since I was used to being an outsider and comfortable with it, traveling and writing were the natural things to do because you are observing from an alien eye," Iyer recently told rediff.com
Iyer, the author of four works of non-fiction and one novel, is in the US promoting his new work The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls and the Search for Home (Alfred A Knopf).
Born in England to Indian parents (a Tamil father and a Gujarati mother), Iyer was young when his family migrated to California. His parents admitted him to a boarding school in England.
His other vivid childhood memories come from the time when he would say goodbye to his parents in California and fly on 747s en route to his boarding school. Later he attended graduate school in the US and for four years worked for Time magazine.
Approximately 12 years ago his travels and writing took him to Kyoto, Japan, where he met a young Japanese woman. Their relationship led Iyer to finally "settle" down in Japan. Now at 43, he spends at least five to seven months in a year in his adopted homeland where he is more of an alien than ever was anywhere else.
The early experience of crossing national boundaries and the realization that in our modern world people are being brought together from different nationalities and multicultural upbringings, led Iyer to coin the phrase, 'The Global Soul.'
"There are an increasing number of people who are living in the cracks between cultures," Iyer said. "Everywhere I turn, especially in big cities, be it in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, half the people I see seem to be mongrels and hybrids."
The other catalyst in his exploration of the 'Global Soul' was a fire that burnt down his parents's house in Santa Barbara, CA.
"I had often thought of myself as homeless and wanted to live more simply, without possessions, and here I had the opportunity to do so," Iyer said.
In The Global Soul, he then sets out to explore our transnational village. He begins his journey at the Los Angles International Airport (or LAX as it is commonly referred to), a city within a city, where he virtually lives for several days. He travels to Hong Kong, where people live in self-contained hotels, and to Toronto, which is fast becoming the center of the new world literature, most of which is being written by immigrants from Third World countries.
He travels to Atlanta, where a new face of the global village was celebrated in the form of the 1996 Olympic games, to England, the former empire which became a global village itself, and finally to Japan, which he calls "home" now.
Iyer said the concept of permanency of a home is alien to him since he did not grow up with that concept. Home to him was anywhere between California and England, the LAX and Heathrow airports and the plane journeys that took him from one point to the other.
"I think those of us who live in spaces between cultures, have to find a home, everyone has to be rooted or grounded somewhere," Iyer said. "It's just that it tends to be an invisible, portable home. It has less to do with soil than values and affiliation."
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